Posted by Michael Brunner, Ph.D.
February 21, 2014
My 16-year-old son said to me, “Dad, the car was making a funny sound on the way home from Target. I think I got a flat tire.” My inspection of the tire confirmed that, indeed, the tire was quite flat. I asked my son, “So Quin, when do you get the flat tire?” He said, “I think I hit something on the way to the store. It made a funny noise, but I really began to notice it on the way home when it started to make a loud thumping noise and the car wasn’t driving right.” I calmly inquired, “So you heard this noise and the car felt odd, and you didn’t think to pull over?” He said, “I thought about it, but I really just wanted to get home.”
What my son didn’t think about was that by driving the car on a flat tire he would do more damage to the tire, wheel or vehicle than if he pulled over and fixed it. (Of course, pulling over to fix the flat would have meant that he would have to fix it rather than getting dad to fix it when he got home, but that’s another story.)
When I talk to patients at Fountain Centers, most of them tell me that they knew something was wrong for quite some time, but they kept going rather than stopping to fix the problem. By the time they decide to deal with their addiction, they’d been “driving on a flat tire” for many miles and real damage — physically, spiritually, interpersonally and emotionally — has settled in. I don’t think this is uncommon. Just like my son, we all ignore our problems — sometimes big, sometimes small — and keep on powering through. We hope the problem will go away or maybe we won’t notice it anymore. More often than not, the problem catches up with us.
For those in recovery, being aware of problems and stresses is essential to living a healthy life and keeping recovery on track. Awareness — paying attention — is absolutely necessary in order to fix one’s problems and can be nurtured in many ways, such as being around people who love us enough that we are willing to listen when they notice that something’s not right; finding peace by going to Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous, church or other places that give us a sense of purpose, meaning and calm; or practicing meditation, yoga, exercise or other healthy living habits that enhance attention to what’s happening here and now.
The fact is that we all experience our flat tires in life. My hope for you is that your road is clear of debris, and your flat tires are few. I also hope that you cultivate a sense of awareness so when your tire begins to go flat — when something isn’t quite right — you’ll stop and do your best to fix it as soon as possible.